Sacked PNG AG stands by actions
Papua New Guinea's sacked attorney general says he has no regrets over his actions this past fortnight.
Papua New Guinea's sacked attorney general says he has no regrets over his actions this past week, saying he had to stand up to the Prime Minister and do what was right.
Kerenga Kua was fired by Peter O'Neill for speaking out against the government's latest controversial constitutional amendments and for standing up for the now disbanded anti-corruption unit, Task Force Sweep.
Mr O'Neill has been embroiled in controversy after being issued an arrest warrant following a Task Force Sweep investigation.
Kerenga Kua told Jamie Tahana that the past week has been full of drama, but he stands by his decisions.
KERENGA KUA: I initially heard of my displacement while I was in my electorate doing my electoral duties. I heard through third parties of my decommissioning. When I came back in the afternoon I had an appointment with the Prime Minister so I met with him one on one in his office and he notified me of his reasoning and the reasons behind this.
JAMIE TAHANA: Were they acceptable to you?
KK: In my view, they were just smoke screens. They were reasons put up as convenient to hide the real motive for my decommissioning. Because as you probably know the Task Force Sweep, which was conducting investigations into white collar crime and corruption in Papua New Guinea, is parked under my former department. So I was more or less politically responsible for that investigative team.
JT: So you stand by Task Force Sweep?
KK: I stand by the Task Force Sweep lock, stock and barrel. In everything they do, and have done and were doing up to the point of my decommissioning. I phoned the Prime Minister after he advised me of those things, I said, "you know Mr Prime Minister I have a message for you from myself." I said, "you really need to resign as Prime Minister because you have disgraced the country, you've broken too many laws and brought the integrity of the whole government into question and no longer have the confidence of the country. Therefore, you need to stand down." And he took that quite graciously. I had actually given him a letter that I had signed formally recording my request in writing that he resign, and quite ambitiously I said: "Why don't you resign by Tuesday," and today he's still in office.
JT: From what you're saying it sounds like you believe he has a case to answer, is that the case?
KK: Well not quite so, my point is this; that when the wheels of justice have turned upon the issue of a warrant of arrest - which is a type of court order issued by the court - the court which issued that warrant has to be satisfied that there is some case that warrants further investigation, it has some merits upon which the magistrate was persuaded to issue the warrant. So the magistrate is the proper authority to form that opinion, and all we have to do is - once that warrant is issued - everybody else has to fall behind that warrant and make sure that it's implemented. In the case of a Prime Minister the standard that should be expected should be much higher.
JT: It must seem odd to you that the government, your government, that established Task Force Sweep, would be the one to dismantle Task Force Sweep as soon as it starts looking at that government.
KK: Very strange because it was all okay and hunky-dory for so long as this Task Force Sweep was investigating everybody else and other senior ministers, but the moment they start investigating the Prime Minister and to go and obtain a warrant of arrest it's not okay. So the question for us is: "Are we subject to the one set of laws and rules or are we subject to different sets of laws; one for the Prime Minister, one for ordinary ministers and maybe yet another for the ordinary citizens of this country.
JT: It's been a wild couple of weeks in Papua New Guinea, did you anticipate things developing as far as they have?
KK: Well if you live in the country for a while, perhaps you'll start to develop some expectation that things will not necessarily follow the defined pathways. You have to have some expectation and that's exactly what is happening here. I just came out of Parliament; the parliament has just adjourned and it just commenced today. We turned up for a two week sitting and we are told that the parliament is adjourned until August 26.
JT: And so how do you see this ending?
KK: Well, I saw two issues in the beginning. One was my objection to amend the provisions of the constitution relating to votes of no confidence one more time, that was my first objection. My second objection was on the Prime Minister's response and all the actions he's taken subsequent to the warrant of arrest. And in the first instance, I argued that we have enough laws, enough restrictions, on manner in which votes of no confidence can be taken on the floor of parliament. There was no need for further restrictions, and in any case, what was proposed was probably unacceptable and unconstitutional. And the second argument was that the Prime Minister; having dismissed the police commissioner, deputy commissioner, assistant commissioner, the investigator, the chairman of the Taskforce Sweep, the disbanding of the Taskforce Sweep itself, the appointment of the new Commission of Inquiry; all of those are tantamount to an abuse of office and acting from a self-interest position as a consequence of which he ought to resign.
JT: Do you see that as being likely though?
KK: He has to. It's a question of what type of country do we want to build in the Pacific region? Do we want to build a country with a reputation for legal compliance? Or is it a case of selective acceptance of the law as and when it suits us, and when it doesn't, we don't. What sort of reputation do we want to establish? You know, that's a country question.
JT: And you've lost your role as Attorney General over this.
KK: Well it's a sense of duty, we are there to do what is right by the law and what is right by our people. Our peoples expectations are codified into laws so when we call for legal compliance we are basically doing what our people want us to do.
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